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Restraining Disciplinaries by Injunction

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[Thanks to Alfred Weiss of Zenith Chambers for providing this case summary]

The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in Mezey v South West London Mental Health NHS Trust, which is authority for the proposition that ... to invoke a disciplinary procedure against a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist whose decision to allow unescorted leave in the hospital garden to a schizophrenic patient who took the opportunity to escape, was a breach of contract capable of being restrained by an injunction.

The patient absconded and killed a stranger. An internal inquiry found that the psychiatrist was a highly competent practitioner but that on this occasion her decision to grant unescorted garden leave was unjustified and inappropriate.

The psychiatrist argued that the purpose of her contractual capability procedure under which disciplinary proceedings could be brought was to improve future performance and the findings of the inquiry showed that there was no fault in her performance beyond an isolated mistake and so no disciplinary action was necessary.

The Court of Appeal held that the contractual capability procedure was designed to cover situations where a practitioner's capability to practise was in question. The findings of the inquiry precluded such a judgment being made against the psychiatrist. The threshold for invoking any disciplinary procedure was not crossed and the Trust was not entitled to commence any disciplinary procedure.